Mature Students: Should and Good-to-Knows About University
An advisory guide with advice and reflections from currently enrolled mature students.
The number of mature students in third-level education in Ireland is higher than ever, with roughly 18% of all students entering third-level education in 2018 over the age of 25. With all the challenges facing mature students, it’s easy to feel nervous, overwhelmed and out-of-place in the classroom. This article will discuss all of the tips to succeed and get past the early hurdles that mature students can face when entering third-level education either for the first time, or on their return.
Here are some basic tips to make sure you get the most out of your course.
Research, and then research some more!
It’s all too common for students who complete secondary school to jump head first into a college course because it’s what their friends are doing, or because it’s a subject that they never did in school that they want to try their hand at. Maybe it is what they wanted to do all along but it turns out not to be what they had hoped. Being a mature student, you have the privilege to take your time, research as many degrees as you like and really take a deep dive into what you’ll be studying. Make sure to research the institutes themselves too, sometimes they might offer fantastic courses, but speaking to alumni about both the course and the campus itself can be a huge help to choosing the right course for you.
As a mature student, there are plenty of concerns when entering the classroom for the first time. The age gap, maybe not being as tech literate as younger students, and just the general concerns of entering a classroom as a mature student. You will quickly find those concerns eased, all you have to do is get involved and be social. Everyone is there for the same reason, to learn! From speaking to others within your class group, you’ll develop new ways to approach tasks and speed up the learning process outside of lecture slots.
Ask for help.
This goes for all students, but the key to maximising your learning and enjoyment within your course is to ask for help when you need it! It doesn’t always have to be your lecturer, but even asking a student who you can see is excelling can be of huge benefit. Going back to the last point, asking for help or assistance in a tricky task will help you find new ways to think about and approach tasks. Doing this can ensure that you don’t get overwhelmed too early on with the the pile on of assignments and the change of routine that comes with returning to education.
Set your goals!
Sometimes the mistake young people make when attending third-level education, is that they jump in head first, not knowing what to expect or what they actually want from the degree they’re pursuing. Take time to determine what it is you’re looking to get out of your degree – whether it be improving your career prospects, or just to reach an academic milestone. Aim high and work towards that goal!
It’s a daunting thought, going back to education after a prolonged break. It is easy to grow comfortable with life when there is a steady income of money from full-time work, family and everything else that comes with that. We spoke to two mature students attending TU Dublin Blanchardstown, and are now entering their third year of four about their concerns and thoughts coming back to education as a mature student.
“After I did my leaving certificate nearly 30 years ago in Lithuania, I got a job and was happy living my life. In my family, no one had a higher education, and no one expected that from their kids. After I came to Ireland and started my new life, I gained that new feeling – wanting to learn something new. I started by getting into the English language classes, joined evening classes for sewing, went to business class and got my English language certificate for academic purposes. I also did online Psychology and Graphic Design classes.
After many years in Ireland, working and learning new things, I very often caught myself thinking about a college, but I thought it’s way too big of a dream. I felt like my English is not good enough and my computer skills are very bad. To improve my computer knowledge, I did a Microsoft Office training course and after this course I felt that my confidence grew a lot, and it was time for me to go to college.”
– Jurate Compton
“Returning to college at 30 years old was terrifying to me. I was pretty settled in life and had a job I enjoyed and was able to pay for the holidays, clothes and restaurants I wanted to enjoy. I always felt that I needed a little bit more from life. Was I really going to do the job forever and be in the same situation for the next 40 years. I knew it was something I would regret if I didn’t go to college so decided at 30 years old it was time to challenge myself and do something different. I remember feeling terrified. I would feel I was a sociable person and have no problem striking up a conversation but now I would be surrounded by people 10+ years younger than me and a lot has changed since I was in school. Thankfully this was not the case, and everyone was more in shock at my age than it actually being an issue to them. I got a core group of friends that have really helped me get through the years so far. Another huge fear I had was money. I had to get a part-time job to help pay for college and was worried the workload of college along with working to pay for it would be too much. There are days when things can get a bit overwhelming, but it has really helped me to perfect my time management. Without being really organised things could go south very quickly.
Unfortunately, at 30, you aren’t as lucky with help from parents etc when paying for college, which is understandable. The biggest worry was if I would actually be able for the course. As I said it has been a long time since I was in school. You have to get used to school life again and it is a lot of sacrifices. Sometimes you aren’t able to go on nights out with friends and sometimes the money isn’t there for the holiday you want to go on. With all this said I am happy I decided to go to college as a mature student. There’s a lot to be said that I’m more mentally ready for the challenge of college now than I was when I was younger. It’s been a tough but rewarding challenge so far.”
– Kevin Gannon
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